Parents looking to boost their kids’ performance in the classroom are turning to the latest skill-building educational toys.

From programmable robots to code-teaching caterpillars and colourful chemistry kits, South Africa’s leading toy retail chain Toys R Us, are the latest stockists of popular STEM toys. Known to encourage skills development in core disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, these toys applies to learning and activities that focus on logic, problem-solving, creativity and experimentation.

“Toys R Us STEM toys are all about promoting learning through fun. With children having so much access to screens and devices these days, it’s important that STEM toys be introduced as an alternative. Kids can still have fun but they will be learning at the same time,” says Nicole Annells, marketing manager Toys R Us & Babies R Us South Africa.

Annells added that toys like erector sets and chemistry sets do much more than keep kids busy. “They enforce the necessary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills children will need in the future. STEM games, such as chess; puzzles; and logic games, provide hands-on learning that fosters critical thinking skills. Our stores are filled with many quality products made from trusted brands in the industry,” she said.

Research has shown that a STEM education gives children the edge in becoming economic and technological leaders of the global marketplace. It is never too early to set your child on the path to an educated future.

Annells says that in the months ahead, Toys R Us plans to further build out its science and engineering offerings, adding that parents enjoyed the increased play value that came with these toys.

“We live in a progressively competitive culture, therefore it’s no wonder that parents who want their children to compete are looking for toys that will educate their children as they play,” she said.

In addition, a wide variety of skills and traits are built when playing with STEM toys. These include: problem solving; cognitive development; engagement; overcoming challenges; teamwork; cooperation and patience.

Durban-based occupational therapist, Amy Engelbrecht says she was “very excited about the upcoming release of this new educational toy range”.

“As an occupational therapist, I know children learn best through playing games and having fun. The dawn of the age of the ‘ipad’ and screens have caused the decline in play based learning as well as their fine and gross motor skills. In my experience, children’s skills improve a great deal when physically playing with various toys and games,” said Engelbrecht.